The French Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Denys Gauer, has said that Boko Haram insurgents are a common enemy to both France and Nigeria, stressing that it will require collaborative intelligence gathering to deal with the group.
Gauer spoke at the Government House Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital on Thursday when he led a delegation of French Embassy attaches on a courtesy visit to Governor David Umahi.
He said that Nigeria and France had become strategic partners noting that the French Government in 2014 organised a summit in its capital Paris with Nigeria’s neighbouring countries, which led to the creation of multi-national forces.
“The same policy has developed in political and security terms; it has continued with the new administration of President Emmanuel Macron who had good knowledge about Nigeria. Another follow up summit with concerned countries participating in the regional summit had equally been held.
“I am sure the New French President will soon pay a visit to Nigeria to strengthen this relationship. I can tell you that French President Macron and President Buhari are currently meeting at the European Union /African Summit holding in Abidjan the Ivory Coast capital.
“We have developed our relationship with Nigeria in both political and security. This is ironically because of Boko Haram, it is a common enemy that has brought France and Nigeria together,” he said.
The envoy added,” We have encouraged Francophone neighbouring countries to work with Nigeria; we have formed a common strategy to fight Boko Haram, provided some facilities and share intelligence with the Nigerian Armed Forces.
“France developed cooperation with Nigeria Armed Forces in terms of intelligence gathering, the cooperation has developed positively, in terms of security both countries have become partners.”
Ambassador Gauer assured the Ebonyi State Government that the state would benefit from the French Development Agency charged with the responsibility of financing development programmes in Nigeria.
He said the Ebonyi State Government was free to avail itself of the opportunity and benefit from the services of the agency.
“The Agency has provided 1.2 billion Euros to finance projects in Nigeria mainly in the energy sector, public transportation, agriculture and support for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, among others,” he said.
Earlier in his speech, Umahi had expressed the desire of the state government to partner the French government in the areas of cultural exchange, solid minerals and agriculture.
Umahi said the state government was productive in agriculture particularly in areas of rice and yam production, and solicited the cooperation of the French Government to enable the Ebonyi State Government to export rice and yam to France.
“I hope you would allow us to export some of our yams and rice to France; we are deep in rice production, we seek partnership with France in areas of renewable energy to develop our infrastructure,” Umahi emphasised.